Division 3: Familiar Foes Face Off

February 21, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This Division 3 Finals weekend already looks familiar with five of last season's eight Quarterfinalists making the trip back to Battle Creek's Kellogg Arena.

And top seeds Dundee and Richmond are slated to meet again for the championship – like they did last season, two of the last three years and three of the last six.

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 3, listed by seed. Their Quarterfinal matches begin at 1 p.m. Friday, with Semifinals at 9:30 Saturday morning and the championship match at 4 p.m. All matches this weekend will be streamed live on MHSAA.tv. For results throughout, check the MHSAA Wrestling page. Rankings below are from MichiganGrappler.com


Record/rank: 20-2, No. 1
League finish: First in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Coach: Tim Roberts, 14th season (386-54-1)
Championship history: Six MHSAA championships (most recently 2007), five runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 285 John Marogen (37-7) sr., 103 Kenny Reinhart (31-14) soph., 112 Zach Blevins (33-12) fr., 125 Brendan O’Connor (39-7) jr., 135 Brad Scholl (22-5) jr., 140 Doug Rojem (47-1) jr., 140 Sean Marogen (28-16) jr., 152 Liam Grantham (31-3) sr., 160 Todd Olson (43-3) sr., 171 Tye Thompson (23-7) soph., 189 Teddy Warren (43-2) jr., 215 Jay Sroufe (28-7) sr.
Outlook: Dundee is making its 11th straight trip to Battle Creek and coming off its fourth-runner-up finish in five seasons. Nine wrestlers are back from last season’s championship match lineup, and Olson and John Marogen were individual runners-up last season. The Vikings beat No. 10 Manchester in the Regional on the way back to the Quarterfinals.


Record/rank: 24-4, No. 2
League finish: First in Blue Water Area Conference
Coach: Brandon Day, ninth season (304-63)
Championship history: Six MHSAA championships (most recently 2012), three runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Aaron Kilburn (36-7) fr., 119 Graham Barton (21-20) fr., 125 Austin Vannatter (33-14) soph., 130 Nick Burg (36-10) jr., 130 Alex Muzlajakovich (27-7) jr., 135 Austin Cattera (23-7) sr., 140 Nate Henke (37-6) sr., 145 Devin Skatzka (45-2) soph., 152 Dalton Yore (28-14) sr., 160 Jordan Adams (28-15) soph., 171 Austin Peltier (31-16) jr., 189 Jake McKiernan (45-5) jr., 215 Adam Boyd (31-14) soph.
Outlook: Aside from the retirement of coach George Hamblin – who led the team to all six of its MHSAA titles, the last four as co-coach with Day – this Richmond team looks a lot like the one that won its third-straight championship last winter. Again, the Blue Devils have 13 individual qualifiers, and all 14 starters have winnings records – with six more reserves who have won at least 20 matches apiece. Skatzka is the reigning individual champion at 135 pounds.  


Record/rank: 25-0, No. 3
League finish: First in West Michigan Conference
Coach: Cliff Sandee, sixth season (148-25)
Championship history: MHSAA runner-up in 1984.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 285 Logan Morningstar (42-4) sr., 103 Reiley Brown (44-4) fr., 112 Logan Irey (42-9) sr., 125 Zach Cooper (50-0) sr., 145 Dakota Hoffman (32-16) jr., 160 Steven Sika (47-3) sr., 171 Joe Sika (45-2) sr., 215 Hunter Shaw (22-7) jr.
Outlook: After entering as the number six seed last season, Whitehall has moved into the top half for this weekend. The Vikings beat both No. 4 Grand Rapids Catholic Central and No. 8 Allendale at the Regional after defeating No. 5 Shelby in the District Final. Zack Cooper and Joe Sika are ranked number one in their respective weight classes and are two of eight senior starters.


Record/rank: 27-3, No. 7
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference East
Coach: Bart Bennett, fifth season (137-20)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Kyle Kelsey (32-12) sr., 119 Jerry Fenner (51-3) soph., 125 Adam Bishop (37-7) sr., 130 Damian Johnson (50-4) sr., 140 Ean Taylor (24-10) fr., 140 Lake Bennett (50-6) sr., 145 Mitch Franklin (43-11) jr., 152 Jared Elliott (44-7) jr.
Outlook: Make that three league, four District and two Regional championships over the last four seasons for Birch Run, which beat No. 9 Saginaw Swan Valley at the Regional last week. Fenner, Johnson, Bennett and Elliott all are ranked among the top four in their respective weight classes. Bennett and Johnson are two of nine senior starters total.


Record/rank: 26-4, No. 6
League finish: Tied for first in Central State Activities Association
Coach: Nate Ethridge, 13th season (381-79)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Richie Ostrander (50-6) jr., 112 Zach King (48-5) jr., 119 Johnny Lynch (43-5) sr., 130 Joe Coleman (38-14) sr., 135 Kevin Briscoe (41-13) soph., 152 Jason Peacock (51-1) sr., 215 Cole Thielen (45-11) sr.
Outlook: The Warriors are back in the Quarterfinals for the sixth time in eight seasons, and this time the lineup features six wrestlers with at least 40 wins. Chippewa Hills tied for first in its league with Hesperia, the second-seeded team in Division 4. Peacock is ranked fifth at his weight and should contend for a championship next weekend as well.


Record/rank: 34-1, unranked
League finish: Second in Kalamazoo Valley Association
Coach: Tom DeRyder, fifth season (91-62)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Andy Caffrey (49-0) sr., 145 Steven Rantz (48-7) jr.
Outlook: After finishing 5-24 in DeRyder’s first season, Parchment has increased its win total every winter over the last four and become a contender in the same league as Division 4 power Constantine. Caffrey is the top-ranked wrestler at his weight in this division, and six others have won at least 40 matches this season.


Record/rank: 12-0, unranked
League finish: Second in Great Northern UP Conference
Coach: Jesse DeBacker, third season (32-9)
Championship history: MHSAA Upper Peninsula champion 1987, two UP runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 285 Tom Bailey (32-7) jr., 112 James Bruce (31-10) fr., 125 Jared Syverson (20-11) jr., 130 Bobby Beauchamp (21-12) fr., 145 Josh Kadish (24-5) sr., 171 Jake Cronick (28-10) soph., 189 Jack Cronick (31-8) jr.
Outlook: Gladstone owns District championships from all three seasons under DeBacker, and also claimed the final championship of the Upper Peninsula-only tournament that ended after the 1986-87 season. Kadish and Jake Cronick both are ranked among the top 10 in their respective weight classes.


Record/rank: 17-8, unranked
League finish: Third in O-K Blue
Coach: Travis Meyer, fifth season (89-52)
Championship history: MHSAA runner-up 1988.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Nate Cooley (29-15) soph., 125 Jesse Scheidel (36-7) soph., 152 Michael Walker (34-12) soph., 189 Neil McCully (38-10) jr., 215 Todd Haller (35-6) sr.
Outlook: After beating both of its District opponents by at least 28 points apiece, Belding edged its Regional opponents by two and one point, respectively, for its first trip to Battle Creek under Meyer. Haller and McCully both are ranked among the top 10 in their respective weight classes.

PHOTO: Dundee's Teddy Warren (right) wrestles with Richmond's Eric Boyd during last season's Division 3 Final at Kellogg Arena. Warren is back this winter. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

Constantine Football All-Stater, Wrestling Champ Aiming for Grand Finale

By Scott Hassinger
Special for MHSAA.com

April 30, 2024

CONSTANTINE – Bennett VandenBerg has earned many accolades over the last four years as a three-sport athlete at Constantine.

Southwest CorridorBut the awards aren't what the 6-foot-3, 240-pound standout will remember most when reflecting on his memories as an all-state football player, state champion wrestler and record-breaking throwing specialist on the Falcons' track & field squad.

"I'll remember how I represented our school and pushed myself to be the best I could be in each sport that I played," said VandenBerg, who has earned 12 varsity letters.

VandenBerg has evolved into one of the most accomplished athletes in the state this school year as a senior, especially standing out among those from smaller communities.

This past fall he was named first-team Division 5-6 all-state at defensive end in football before winning the Division 3 Individual Finals wrestling title at 285 pounds in early March at Ford Field.

VandenBerg's final goal is to win the discus title at the Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals on Saturday, June 1, in Kent City to end his Constantine career all-state in all three sports.

He broke the school record in the discus his junior year with a throw of 158 feet, 1 inch; the previous mark of 156-6 had been held by Doug Polasek since 1986. VandenBerg has eclipsed his school record twice this spring, most recently with a personal-best toss of 170-9 in a Southwestern Athletic Conference double dual meet with Schoolcraft and Kalamazoo Christian. He ranks No. 4 statewide in the event regardless of enrollment division. Lawton junior Mason Mayne at 175-4 is the only Division 3 competitor with a better throw than VandenBerg.

"It's really cool to have your name up on the school record board, but I'd like to make that mark more untouchable before I'm done," VandenBerg said. "My goal is to be a state discus champion. I've put in the necessary work for it. It would be nice to end my career that way."

Kyle Rimer, Constantine's veteran boys track & field coach, is most impressed with VandenBerg's leadership and presence in working with the Falcons' younger athletes.

VandenBerg, top position, battles Wyatt Spalo in their Division championship wrestling match at 285 pounds in March at Ford Field. "Bennett loves to compete. Ever since he was a freshman, we've also had him on our 400-meter relay team. That's something he really enjoys doing. He's not just a thrower, but a good overall athlete with lots of drive,” Rimer said. “There's a lot of individuality in track & field, but I think he does a great job of leading the younger kids. He has the drive, accountability and technique to achieve his goal of being a state champion in his throwing events.”

VandenBerg is already a two-time Finals placer in the discus, earning sixth as a junior and seventh his sophomore year. He admits being a little disappointed with his distance at the 2023 state meet.

"In that particular event (discus) you need lots of focus and determination because there are a ton of tiny things you can mess up on that affect your throw. To become better you need to be consistent, show up every day and be willing to put in the work," VandenBerg said. "Right now I'm working on my speed in the circle and quickness in my follow-through."

VandenBerg also has been pleased with his improvement this spring in the shot put. He's increased his distance by over five feet and hopes to break the school record in that event as well. John Kampars (1967) holds Constantine's shot put record at 54-8¼, and VandenBerg's personal best is 48-10 in a double-dual meet this season against Parchment and Centreville.

"Shot put is a difficult event. You need power, but your form has to be top-notch – otherwise it's tough to move that 12-pound ball," VandenBerg said. "I would love to qualify for state in both the discus and shot put and be all-state in each. That would be amazing if I could be a state champion in either of those events."

VandenBerg has put in extra work in the offseason with special instruction from Bill Griffey of Next Throw in Plainwell, along with working with Constantine assistant track & field and head football coach Shawn Griffith.

"Bennett puts a lot of time into working on his throwing. He spends a lot of time in the weight room, and he's a bigger kid who is not afraid to be coached and listens to what other people tell him," Griffith said. "We're excited to see what he can do now that we've had warmer weather recently."

VandenBerg (34) carries the football during a 2023 regular-season home game against Schoolcraft.VandenBerg's motivation this spring follows a tremendous wrestling season that saw him finish 54-0 and capture the 285 championship with a 3-0 win in the title match over Reed City junior Wyatt Spalo.

"I gained 20 pounds of muscle and did everything you need to do to become a better athlete to wrestle the heavyweight division. Winning the title was overwhelming. It was everything I ever wanted, and the first 20 minutes after winning it was relief, especially after losing in the Finals as a junior. I just went into that last match and wrestled smart and confident," VandenBerg said. "My speed and strength gave me an advantage over the bigger heavyweights I faced this year."

Vandenberg, 188-22 with 104 career pins, became the 10th Finals champion in Constantine wrestling history and the first to achieve the feat since Kevin Watkins won a 152-pound crown in 2000.

VandenBerg competed at 189 as a freshman and sophomore. He was a Regional qualifier as a freshman and finished sixth in Division 3 as a sophomore before ending his junior campaign as the Finals runner-up at 215. 

"Bennett is a competitor who hates to lose, and if he does he learns from it. He had a lot of good practice partners on the team his first three years, and he wasn't going to be denied after losing in the Finals as a junior," said Constantine wrestling coach Dale Davidhizar Jr.

VandenBerg played on Constantine's varsity football team for four years. He got a lot of extra playing time as a freshman when Constantine reached the Division 6 Semifinals during in the COVID-shortened season. He led the Falcons in rushing as a sophomore before switching to tight end as a junior. Out of necessity, VandenBerg returned to lead Constantine in rushing and scoring again as a senior.

"Bennett learned a great deal from the older guys on the team his first three varsity seasons. He learned leadership qualities and is a very unselfish kid who is willing to do what's best for his team," Griffith said.

VandenBerg is most proud of Constantine winning a District crown last fall, especially after his senior class went 0-5-1 as eighth graders. VandenBerg posted 164 solo tackles at defensive end during his final high school season and was Constantine's main offensive weapon with 1,354 yards and 16 touchdowns rushing on 186 carries.

"Winning Districts as seniors in football was a special moment. As eighth graders, we weren't exactly the most athletic team, but we put in the work as we got older to become successful," VandenBerg said.

VandenBerg has been invited to play for the West team at the annual Michigan High School Football Coaches Association's East-West All-Star Game this summer.

College coaches have shown interest in VandenBerg in all three sports, especially football and wrestling. VandenBerg, who carries a cumulative GPA of 3.989 and scored 1110 on his SAT, is weighing his options in athletics but knows he wants to study either ecology or forestry in college.

"I love being outdoors and doing what I love to do," VandenBerg said.

Scott HassingerScott Hassinger is a contributing sportswriter for Leader Publications and previously served as the sports editor for the Three Rivers Commercial-News from 1994-2022. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Constantine’s Bennett VandenBerg competes in the discus during a home meet his junior season. (Middle) VandenBerg, top position, battles Wyatt Spalo in their Division championship wrestling match at 285 pounds in March at Ford Field. (Below) VandenBerg (34) carries the football during a 2023 regular-season home game against Schoolcraft. (Photos by Brandon Watson/Sturgis Journal.)